Know Your School of Athens Philosophers: Socrates

7:00 AM

Raphael, School of Athens, 1511

Socrates did not write any philosophical texts, so everything we know of him comes from his students, mostly Plato. Plato was Socrates's favorite pupil, and is shown in the middle of the School of Athens, next to Aristotle. Socrates believed that life could be broken down into questions, and the solution to any problem was found by asking the right ones. This form of thinking is known as the Socratic method. In fact, Socrates was notorious for never giving answers, only asking questions. His most famous quote is, "What I know, I do not think I know," which many take as an acknowledgement of his own ignorance.

I really like his philosophy, although I mostly know it from various works of Plato's. It seems like Socrates didn't really care about answering questions, only asking them. While he believed that virtue comes from knowledge, he also contended that knowledge consisted of asking questions. So perhaps Socrates's idea of virtue came not from knowing everything, but from knowing that you cannot know everything, and will therefore always have something to learn.

Socrates was always at odds with the Athenian political elite, and because of this they charged him with heresy and sentenced him to death by poison. But even on the edge of death, he welcomed the new experience, and according to Xenophon, truly believed that it was his time to die.

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